THIS is what the future backbone of the Royal Navy is set to look like.
The News can reveal Ministry of Defence officials are keenly looking at this image as the final design of the new Type 26 frigate.
BAE Systems has been drawing up plans for the last 18 months and hopes are that the government will settle on this draft early next year.
Thirteen of the ships are likely to be ordered to replace the 13 ageing Type 23 frigates currently in service.
Brian Johnson, who is UK business development director at BAE Surface Ships, said: ‘It looks like a good picture and the ship will be something close to that.
‘This is a reference design but this is what we think is the most likely outcome of the decision to be made next year.’
The 5,500-tonne ships will have a top speed of around 28 knots and feature a rear cargo door in the stern for small fast boats to launch from.
The crew size is expected to be about 140 compared with the 180 sailors typically needed to operate a Type 23.
It is understood the cost will be £400m per vessel – but the finer details, which will have a bearing on the price of the ships, is currently being mulled over by the MoD.
If given the go-ahead, BAE hopes to start building the new frigates in 2016 and launch the first one in 2018.
Mr Johnson said: ‘These ships will be the operational navy of the future.
‘These ships are going to be around until the 2060s and they are going to make up the backbone of the Royal Navy. By 2030, half of the navy will operate on these ships.’
The News understands eight of the Type 26 frigates are likely to be based in Portsmouth, with the other five based in Plymouth.
The ships are the latest in building the navy’s next generation of warships.
It comes after the production of six new £1bn Type 45 destroyers to replace the old Type 42 destroyers by 2013, and the huge £6bn project to build two 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers by 2020.
The building programme for Type 26 has not been finalised, but Mr Johnson confirmed the new frigates are set to create more work for Portsmouth shipbuilders.
He said: ‘Obviously, we will not be ignoring skills in the Portsmouth area.’